Extensive evidence implicates inflammation in multiple phases of stroke etiology and pathology. In particular, there is growing awareness that inflammatory events outside the brain have an important impact on stroke susceptibility and outcome. Numerous conditions, including infection and chronic non-infectious diseases, that are established risk factors for stroke are associated with an elevated systemic inflammatory profile. Recent clinical and pre-clinical studies support the concept that the systemic inflammatory status prior to and at the time of stroke is a key determinant of acute outcome and long-term prognosis. Here, we provide an overview of the impact of systemic inflammation on stroke susceptibility and outcome. We discuss potential mechanisms underlying the impact on ischemic brain injury and highlight the implications for stroke prevention, therapy and modeling.